The man in the middle of the carriage is unlike the others. Like them he has changed at Ueno for the Hibiya Line, direction Kita-Senju. Unlike them he is white, very white, which is to say translucent. His skin alone makes him something of an oddity. His horseshoe hairline, full beard and bottle glasses add to the effect. The worn checked suit and sandals nudge him beyond redemption.
From a Strand Book Store carrier bag he retrieves a 75mm handheld magnifying glass. He begins to scrutinise a paper map, zooming in and out without apparent success. The kind of man who would spend his ablutions altering the water temperature on the shower. His extending and retracting arms lend him an arachnoid quality, his hinged limbs occupying more seat than two or three locals. As the train slows on approach, he springs into action, bundling his effects into the bag, and lunging for the door.
In a recess down the side of the shopping mall a hyper-English gentleman finishes a cigarette. He casts his eyes about, but is deep in thought. He too is incongruously turned out in a light-coloured suit, a jauntily patterned waistcoat and matching bow tie. The panama hat is more than a little cartoonish. A challenging choice for a man in the shadows.
He emerges exactly ten seconds after his target passes. Hisayo sees many things of beauty and note from her vantage point behind the counter that her customers never seem to notice. The colonial throwback is familiar, the nutty professor is new. By the time she pours the coffee and plates up the cake they are long gone. That’s the third time this week, she thinks. The admiral, the dowager duchess, and now the acutely observed academic misfit. But it’s a strange fancy dress party that only sends out two invites.
He catches up with him at the corner of the children’s play park. As they embrace he whispers, “Don’t fight it. Let the breath out of your chest.”
Herbie Glaser wakes elsewhere. It is black, very black. He is not in a box—he can feel no sides. He is not in a room—there are no walls. Space? No stars, just black.
“Dark, isn’t it.”
“Where am I? Who are you?”
“I don’t know. Nobody knows.”
“How do I get out of here?”
“When it’s time they will come and get you. Don’t worry, you will get out. When, where and for what is as yet undecided. Until then you wait. We all wait.”
“Why am I here?”
Hisayo sees only one man return from the party. He tips his hat to the saucer-faced cats whose eyes follow him for the last time today.
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